Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Runner's High: Cebu City Marathon 2011

“If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon.” —Emil Zatopek.

That quote really hit me because it certainly felt like I was in a different life! Actually, running a marathon felt like different stages so let me break it down into three parts.

Part I: The Adrenalin Rush - For this part, I will mention the hours leading up to gunstart. Since Saturday afternoon, all I could think of was "4am Sunday". I kept visualizing my gear, outfit, things to bring, the race venue and even the route. I could already feel my heart pounding fast and my hands getting sweaty! I tried to go to sleep at around 9:30pm. TRIED is the correct word since I hardly got any! I got up at 2am, had a little meal, coffee, poopstop and it was off to Asiatown I.T. Park!

When me and my bro got there, you could already sense the excitement and anxiety of everyone. Again, heart pounding fast and more sweaty hands! After so many greetings, a few photos and getting checked in, the more than a thousand strong souls registered for the 42.195 km distance were treated to an inspirational video and a prayer by Fr. Siongo Tan of Team Boyek. Then the countdown began...and a spectacular fireworks display signaled the start at exactly 4am!
TTB before gunstart

And so we were off! I ran with TTB teammates Coleen, Charles and bro Chill. We maintained a 6:30 min/km pace for the first 6 kms. By this time, Chill and Charles were already pulling away. Fellow TTB mate Benjhz joined me and Coleen as we approached the SRP Tunnel. The runners were still so rowdy and energetic, especially when we entered the tunnel and were greeted with loud Lady Gaga music. So far, so good! We maintained an easy 6:30-7:00 pace with walk breaks on every water station.

With bro at the Fuente area, km 5

With fellow TTB Coleen along Jones Ave., km 7

Part II: The SRP Highway - For the past week, the morning weather in Cebu was either cloudy, rainy or gloomy. Perfect running conditions! So this was certainly on every Cebu City Marathon registrant's prayer and hope for Sunday's weather. But as Coleen, Benjhz and I entered the SRP highway, we just knew that the sun was going to attack us. It was still dark and cool as we passed the 10 km marker, but you could already see the sun's annoying orange rays forming through some clouds. By the 12th to the 14th km, the thing I was most afraid of suddenly hit me...slowly but surely! My injured left knee (torn ACL and meniscus) started to pop and become uncomfortable with each stride. I was really slowing down! But Coleen stayed with me the whole time (so grateful, Colili). The U-turn point, or the 20th km at the end of the SRP highway, was all I could look forward to at that stage. So many runners were already overtaking us and I honestly was contemplating on not finishing this marathon.

When we got to the U-turn, I had to let Coleen go ahead since I was really in pain. And she certainly sped away like an orange blur! From then on, I had so many walks and stops just trying to relax, massage and "aligning" my knee. I could only run a few strides and then walk again. It was so frustrating and disappointing! The only things I could think about were the months of preparations and motivations for my 1st full marathon going down the drain. But so many runners and motivators along the way forced me to just keep on going. At the 24th to 27th kms, where the sun was already very visible and I was approaching the halfway point of the SRP, I finally found a little running rhythm going. Even though I was really slow (around an 8 min/km pace), I figured as long as I'm running I'll be able to get to the finish faster than walking. But the SRP really gets to you. By the 27th km, approaching the Filinvest area where the sun was already in full force, the highway just keeps getting longer and longer. I thought every meter felt like a kilometer! From time to time, the pain in my knee would resurface. But as they say, No Pain No Gain! I just wanted to reach the tunnel to get reprieve from Mr. Sun.

Part III: The Homestretch - After getting out of the SRP and the tunnel (around 4hrs 20min of my Garmin time and at the 32nd km), all I could think of was finishing in one piece. Somebody once said that the final 10 km of a marathon is probably the longest you'll ever run. So true!!! By this time, my feet were killing me. My knee still felt sore but my slow pace probably relaxed it a bit. I maintained by 8 min/km pace while walking every 1.5 - 2 kms. Heading into Mango Avenue (35 - 38 km) was also another torture area. The uphill and downhill slopes and the heat of the sun certainly didn't help any of the runners at this stage. Not to mention the heavy traffic and the vehicle fumes all confined at the other side of the road. But you just had to force yourself to move on. Go go go! was all I could think of at this point.

When I got to the 39th km, I gathered all my remaining energy to force myself to run the last 3 kms without stopping. Go go go! I raced passed many runners who were walking at the UP Gorordo area (that dreaded killer uphill area) and just kept on going. I felt like I was sprinting, but my pace was still at 7:30-8 min/km. Everything felt so heavy but I just wanted to get this over with and finish under 6 hours!

The sight of the finish line and seeing many familiar and encouraging faces really gave me that "Runner's High"! My wife and daughter were there as well as other Team TytsBogdo teammates. What a feeling that was!

Making the final turn for the finish line

I guess it's true when they say that only a marathon finisher can understand how it feels. I've heard so many stories before about finishing a marathon, but only until you actually experience it that you truly understand its significance. Pain was certainly inevitable, as my knees and feet were really heavy and sore right after. Stairs were a nightmare while taking a bath was an effort in itself! But through all that, looking at my twin mangoes CCM medal just puts a smile on my face!

So I would like to thank my family, for all their support and tolerance; Team TytsBogdo, who certainly provide all the motivation anyone can ever need in running a marathon; and to the Ungo Family, also for all their support and camaraderie.

Mission accomplished!

Finally, I would like to borrow the closing line from CERC member & friend John Pages' article from Sun-Star Daily: To all those still grimacing with aches and sore muscles, consider this...
“I’m never going to run this again!!!” said Grete Waitz after winning her first of nine New York City marathons.


  1. Congratulations, Cha! I hope your ACL and torn meniscus are fine na!

  2. Good job, bai! We passed each other so many times, each in his own pain but we made it. Carry on!

  3. very good job indeed! congratulations el presidente!

  4. Amazing run pakner. I know the feeling. the 1st one would always be the sweetest!

  5. Congratulations my friend! Everytime I've run one, I've always been quoted saying the same thing. I'm proud of your accomplishment as well as those of TTB and the UNGO Runners. Recover well!

  6. grabeha bitaw ninyo mga ttb uy! solid jud kaayo... congrats again, rh1!